Archives for the month of: September, 2013

This week something happened that affected the majority of people I know in a very big way. Yep, you guessed it – The iOS software update for the iPhone (bear with me, I am going somewhere with this). With change comes complication and I had to completely wipe my phone in order to get it to work properly again. However, being me, I found a silver lining to this annoying circumstance. I got to re-download all of my podcasts. I know what you’re thinking, my life is crazy exciting. Just in case you aren’t a slave to Apple products I’ll add the information that when you haven’t listened to your podcasts they leave a red notification bubble on your screen. I cannot be dealing with these reminders clogging up my floating picture (my favourite feature of the update) of Mary Poppins. I’ll just have to listen to all my podcasts again – joyous news. I have been absolutely loving listening to them all over again and felt I needed to share the happiness. I fear that people may have missed the podcast bandwagon and that needs to change!

If you aren’t a podcast person I do not blame you – I never used to be. It was actually my friend Jack who introduced me to them earlier this year with an episode involving Mandy Patinkin talking about his time in ‘Sunday in the park with George’. Straight away Mandy’s voice was filled with passion when talking about the song ‘Move On’. I was swooning away at his commentary when his voice changed suddenly and he got all choked up, I stopped swooning and was hanging on his every word. He talks about how cannot listen to ‘Move On’ because he misses it too much and that ‘Sunday (ITPWG)’ was the best part of his life on the stage. I challenge anyone who performs to listen to that podcast and not well up (I cry every time but I am an overly stagey emotional person). Naturally I had to hear more so I downloaded the entire Sondheim series. I have since downloaded the entire Masterworks Broadway podcast collection. There are interviews with critics, creatives and the Broadway legends themselves. As well as snippets of scores you get to learn about the works and hear the experiences of the people involved. For a nerd like me, nothing could be more appealing.

To get them in your life your options are as follows:

  1. If you have an iPhone* download the Podcast app, search for Masterworks Broadway, subscribe and then download all of them so you can listen to them without internet streaming (the perfect commuting companion).
  2. If you don’t have an iPhone but do have iTunes, skip the app step but search for Masterworks Broadway in the iTunes Store.
  3. If you don’t have either of the above you can listen to them all via the Masterworks Broadway website.

*NB: I am not being endorsed to advertise Apple products. I wish I was.

So that’s it for this week really! Short and sweet, spreading the Sondheim and general stage love.

As an additional note, remaining on the Sondheim theme, my theatrical visit this week is to Guildford to see ‘Putting It Together’. I adore the show and cannot wait to see it live – especially with the incredible cast line up of this production (David Bedella, Daniel Crossley, Janie Dee, Damian Humbley and Caroline Sheen).

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“This chair is completely out of proportion”

If you don’t get the above reference then you clearly haven’t seen the 1999 Broadway production which is a huge gaping hole in your life that you didn’t know about. Unfortunately you can’t watch the whole thing on Youtube (you have to be crazy like me and buy an American DVD player just to watch your theatrical DVDs) but you can watch one of the best showstoppers of all time here. You should also try and get to Guildford to see this limited run (4 shows only Friday – Sunday) – I’m going tomorrow (Friday). Hopefully I’ll see you there, or, if not I hope you’re at least listening to the Sondheim podcasts in solidarity. Let me know if you managed to avoid tears at the Mandy Patinkin ‘Move On’ episode and if you find any podcasts that you love. Happy listening!

PS. More Sondheim: on this day (26th September) in 1957, West Side Story opened at the Winter Garden Theatre, Broadway.

“Every moment makes a contribution, every little detail plays a part. Having just a vision’s no solution, everything depends on execution: putting it together- that’s what counts!”

– Rebecca Ridout

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The fortnightly blog post was clearly a lie. I apologise. I do hope you’re okay with it and that we can move forward together despite my apparent lack of timekeeping skills. However, surely it’s better to write more frequently than it is to write less? I guess only time (and my friends who are on quality control) will tell. This week’s post is just a little ‘Food for Thought’. It’s an opportunity for me to let off some theatre themed steam and I’m hoping that in reading it you’ll discover a shared experience. It’s hopefully a pat on the back if you’re a graduate and a forewarning if you’re a student (remembering forewarned is forearmed). Here we go then…

Since graduating I’ve found it very hard to answer even the simplest of questions. “What are you up to at the moment?” “What’s new with you?” “How’s everything going?” There are endless word combinations that all culminate in the same scenario of me stumbling over my words, trying to justify my existence, and resenting the questioner. Now, how I expect to have a conversation with someone and this question not come up I do not know. I do know, however, that I didn’t have this problem two months ago. It is obviously the curse of an out of work actor. We all know there is no shame in not having a job (“That’s showbiz, kid”) but you still want to be able to paint a picture of the glamorous life you are living – even when, as in my case, you only have waitressing, theatre trips and a blog to show for yourself.

As soon as you choose this career path you (or at least I do) constantly justify yourself to those who “don’t get it” – the friends and family who aren’t in the business. It is undeniably easier to say: “I’ve got a part in _______, I start next week” than it is to explain the ups and downs, ins and outs and confusing reality of auditions. This is something I expect to have to explain/justify to family and friends though. I’ve been doing it ever since I first applied for drama school so I don’t get phased when they ask what I am up to – it’s like the answer is on tap. Why though am I struggling to tell people who are in the industry and consequently “get” my situation?

I’ve always instinctively asked graduate friends what they’re up to. It’s not to be nosey, it’s not to find out what they’re being seen for, it’s not to rub salt in any rejection wounds and it’s not to remind them that they still have post show blues (*COUGH*). It’s because all you’re hoping for is for them to turn around and tell you that they have a part in the aforementioned _______, and that you can gleefully hug it out. I had, until I became the out of work actor on the receiving end, always seen it as a caring question filled with hope of a positive response. I’ll admit that I sometimes got the defeated look with the “just auditioning, you know” response but I had never considered that the person could have been worn down by having had that conversation multiple times that day. Now that I am that person I can safely say (having seen many people I needed to catch up with recently at a theatrical event) that it is hard to come up with a multitude of positive replies!

What is the solution then? Not asking that question is near impossible. You want to ask in case the answer is a cause for celebration, you want to ask because you care but you don’t want to ask because you don’t want to be a reminder of their lack of opportunity. I genuinely don’t think there is a solution. Pointless blog post, you ask? I certainly hope not. I hope it provoked some thoughts in you, please let me know (@beccaridout) if you share any of these feelings on the asking or responding end. I know writing this has been like therapy for me! It means that next time I am asked I will know to control my death stare and will no doubt chuckle away to myself before launching into: “Well, it’s funny you should ask that because…”

Additionally, tonight I am off to see half of my year group for a mini reunion and to see ‘When Midnight Strikes’ at the Gatehouse Theatre. That will mean a minimum of 25 times being asked a combination of the above questions. Bring it on. I may not have an acting job currently but I’m spending time with people I love, seeing what I love. ‘When Midnight Strikes’ is written by LSMT’s own Head of Music – the man, the legend, Charles Miller (not forgetting his lyricist partner Kevin Hammonds). I know, even before I get there, that I am going to love this production with LSMT at its heart, actor friends in the cast (who, guess what, still had the same reply as me to the above questions in early August) and a top notch creative team. I cannot wait! Also, as I am typing this, the sun is currently shining in London town after days of miserable weather. It must be my happy thoughts. Remember: when in doubt, Ridout will sort you out. Or, if that fails…ask Mary Poppins (we are practically the same person after all). Happy question and answering!

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My new mantra before answering.

In regards to having a positive spin for every seemingly negative answer:

“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in the most delightful way”

– Rebecca Ridout

This post is about books and, you”ll have to bear with me on this one, it needs a little introduction. Back in year 6 my class were set a long term homework task of writing an autobiography. Yes, at aged 10 I was being asked to produce literature on my short and insignificant life – what a pointless exercise. Combine this with volunteering in a charity shop for years and seeing rather unloved (and clearly uninspiring) copies of ‘celebrities’ biographies constantly abandoned left me completely put off the idea of ever reading one. I stuck to this (naive) decision until my current, ripe-old, age of 21. It was only this summer that I finally saw the light and discovered just how brilliant biographies can be.

At West Side Story rehearsals (sorry – there will eventually be a post that doesn’t reference NYMT) Tom Deering had brought along his copy of Leonard Bernstein’s biography and, after professing how it had changed his life, offered to lend it to anyone willing to read it. As I was playing the ever-elusive-act-two ‘Somewhere Girl’ I had a lot of free time in rehearsals so took him up on the offer and began tackling the impressive text. Not long into the book a quote appeared:

“You must work, work very hard. You must devote all your time to your art. You must keep yourself pure. Do not let your friends spoil you with flattery. You have everything to make you great; it is up to you only to fulfill your mission” – Dimitri Mitropoulos

I scribbled it down in my notebook and from then on I knew that this book was going to be a worthwhile read. I will, however, have to be honest and tell you that I did struggle to read it! Humphrey Burton did not leave a single stone unturned and whilst I sped through the musical theatre related chapters I would always reach somewhat of a halt when it returned to his conducting years. My advice here would be: always persist! In these difficult chapters I learnt so many new things (least of all that his name is pronounced Bern-STINE – a mistake I made on many occasion) and, a few weeks later, when I met someone who knew Bernstein I wasn’t an uneducated fool when he referenced Tanglewood or the ‘Age of Anxiety’. Proof that you never know when knowledge will serve you so you should always look to expand it!

Reaching the final chapters of Bernstein’s biography I was getting progressively more upset and emotionally attached. You really feel like you know the person by the time you’ve read all about their life and I wasn’t ready to let go of Lenny. Instead of crying myself to sleep I decided to put the book down and read it the following day in a rehearsal – where at least I’d have some human comfort if I was a crying mess. Sitting listening to his work being played by a 33 piece orchestra as I read his final moments was an overwhelming experience. When the orchestra went on a break, and I had finished wiping away my tears, I mimed across the concert hall to Tom my heart being ripped out and he graciously waved it goodbye. It was official, I was hooked. Reading the biography of a person who has made an impact on your life/your career/your love of something is unlike anything else. Additionally, as morbid as it may seem, reading the biography of someone who has died means that you know the mark that they left on the world – or, more importantly, your world. It’s definitely my new favourite form of non-fiction. So, having spoken quite a lot about my first biography experience I will try and keep it brief on the books that followed. I’ve read a composer’s, a choreographer’s, a performer’s and now I am currently reading a playwright’s biography – theatrical enough for you?

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Clockwise starting top: Somewhere by Amanda Vaill, Judy Garland by Anne Edwards and Leonard Bernstein by Humphrey Burton.

Next up was (the aptly named) ‘Somewhere’ on the life of Jerome Robbins. In a nutshell: it is stunning. If you’re a fan of any of Jerome’s work then it is an absolute must read and you will find it (comparatively to Bernstein) easy to read. The top inspirational quote of the book being: “Just remember each day, hour, and minute of your life is a passing one – and it’s gone forever – so enjoy all of it…stop trying to solve it. It doesn’t solve.”

This was followed with ‘Judy Garland’ by Anne Edwards. I will have to say a bit more on this one than on Jerry’s I’m afraid. Whereas Lenny and Jerry (that’s right, I feel like we’re buddies after reading all about their lives) had relatively happy lives with the occasional bad spell, Judy’s was one life-long struggle. I knew she had lived a hard life (I mean I saw ‘End of the Rainbow’!) but nothing could have prepared me for the contents of that book. When I finally reached the chapter where she died I had already cried numerous times and felt that I had mourned the loss of her life much earlier in the book – her death felt like a relief. I really recommend that you read this book if you’re ever worrying about your career, and struggling with the hard graft at the bottom, so you can have a reminder that it isn’t always fun at the top. Here are a few quotes which struck me:

  • “I can live without money, but I cannot live without love”
  • “A great entertainer doesn’t really die” – I think this was the point that I ran out of tissues.
  • “You don’t always keep on the top. My life, my career has been like a roller-coaster”

On a much lighter note: Leonard Bernstein appears everywhere! He obviously appeared in Jerome Robbin’s biography countless times, but I was more surprised when I read: “I remember Bernstein, the tears running down his face” whilst present at Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall concert. He also appeared in my current read (Tennessee William’s ‘Memoirs’): “I was lonely at first. But soon I met Leonard Bernstein”. Well whaddya know? He gets around doesn’t he? What a man. Now that’s lightened the mood…

To try and round up my opinions on biographies I think John Waters, who wrote the introduction ‘Mr Williams saved my life’ to ‘Memoirs’, puts it perfectly: “Reading his book is life having a few stiff drinks with Tennessee…as he tells you juicy life stories that were once off the record. Listening could save your life too”. Reading biographies (or autobiographies) of a person that influenced your life could be just what the doctor ordered. It certainly was for me. As my first blog post was about my experiences of highs and lows since graduating I thought that recommending some books on other people’s lifetimes of highs and lows was a suitable follow up! I cannot recommend them highly enough. Do let me know, on here or via twitter (@beccaridout), whose you pick up and how they affect you. Happy reading!

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Memoirs by Tennessee Williams and my first ever show merchandise purchase!

“I read about the joys, the world dispenses to the fortunate, and listen for the echoes. I read to live”

– Rebecca Ridout

Again, in advance of Thursday’s promised blog post, I am having to write a ‘bonus blog’ due to my day’s inspiring activities. It also feels like the perfect follow up of last weeks ‘ticket tips’ post as today I was part of the longest ticket queue I’ve yet to encounter (9 1/2 hours)!

In case you missed the memo: Today at 4.30pm a hundred tickets were released to the opening night/press night of Miss Saigon on the 21st May 2014. You also got a free poster (long may the hoarding continue).

Waking up at 5.30am this morning (apologies in advance if my grammar/general understanding of basic English is questionable in this, I am rather tired) I seriously questioned my stage related sanity but still soldiered on. We were (my queue partner Sinead and I) the first people to arrive at the Prince Edward Theatre. This seriously shocked me, where were all the Saigon fans!?* However, knowing we were guaranteed tickets we went and treated ourselves to breakfast whilst keeping an eye on the theatre front. Then, when we were well fed, we felt happy joining the queue in 4th & 5th position respectively, and set up camp for the next 8 hours.

*Apparently they were all waiting to book tickets at home like sane people! At 5.55pm Miss Saigon had broken West End and Broadway box office records for ticket sales in a single day by making £4,402,371 since opening the lines at 10am. Wow.

Here are my top tips for an enjoyable queue experience:

  • Most importantly for comfort: wear multiple pairs of socks. I’m being deadly serious. Even with two pairs of socks my toes were numb within the first half hour.
  • If it’s likely to rain, and you won’t be under the cover of the theatre, make sure you have an umbrella!
  • Take something to sit on. I had seat cushions and the lovely lady in front of us had a camping chair!
  • Don’t be shy to chat to the people in front and behind you – they’ll be your “I’m not jumping the queue!” ambassadors when you go to get food and they provide top notch entertainment. Time can fly by if you’re having fun. After all, you’ll be seeing them again in the theatre!
  • Download the app ‘Heads Up‘ (for 69p) – this is just for general life and queue fun. You’ll need to buy (a further 69p) the ‘Broadway Baby’ deck for particularly popular ticket queue entertainment but it’s totally worth it. Trust me.
  • I would normally suggest taking a flask of hot coffee/tea/chocolate but a massive shout out has to go to the staff at the Prince Edward Theatre, especially our queue controller Mikey, who provided us with free tea and coffee!

I hope they are helpful, if a bit brief! Let me know if you have any other gems.

Now, having been told all day that our tickets would be in the Grand Circle (so at £20, only a small ticket price and reservation fee saving) we had been sold on the fact the tickets were for the opening/press night. When I went to purchase my ticket the box office man said “So I’ve got you two tickets in the front row…” and I had to seriously suppress my urge to jump up and down whilst screaming with happiness. The cameraman next to me got, what I can only imagine to be, a hugely embarrassing reaction shot. I seriously hope it doesn’t find it’s way onto the internet. In that moment, however, I did not care – I was going to be sitting in the front row. Suddenly, all my 5.30am induced fears of insanity washed away and I felt completely justified in my dedication to queuing. Just yesterday I had texted Sinead saying: “There will always be someone who got on the first train and will get there before you” and in that moment I decided I would BE that person. It paid off (only the first 5 people – as you can buy 2 per person – got front row seats).

So the moral of this bonus blog post is: the next time an opportunity like this comes around, you (yes you) should be that first person. Try and beat me to the front of that queue – I dare you. Happy queuing!

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Left to right: Danny, Sinead, Me and Grace.

“To Miss Saigon! …. Miss Saigon!”

– Rebecca Ridout

Now, I have to just quickly get across that the lyrical title of this blog entry is not a reflection of my musical tastes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Disney film (in fact I have the entire ‘Disney Classics’ collection on VHS in a special box at home) but despite these two facts I am not a Disney fangirl! It just so happened that Alan Menken chose very appropriate lyrics to suit the content of this particular blog post. There, now thats out in the open, let’s begin.

I am moving house this week and in the process of packing I realised I am a hoarder. I am a hoarder of a specific theatrical variety. I had a discussion with my housemate as to whether I should keep my soundtrack CD’s on the argument that in the future I want the same trip down nostalgia lane as I did when I found all my parent’s soundtrack cassettes. He tried to tell me that in the future when a 3D version of ‘Phantom of the Opera’ jumps out my laptop screen and fills my room I will not care for my CD collection at all. This argument, as exciting as it may sound, did not change a thing. I’m keeping them. I was, however, inspired to do a premature (to my promised fortnightly) blog as a bit of a “getting to know you” session. I’ll show you some of my hoards and throw some tips into the mix. Hopefully it is of interest to some of you and let me know if you do any of the same! We can make some kind of musical theatre hoarders support group.

First things first. My biggest collection: TICKETS

I have been keeping all my theatre tickets since September 2012 in my bedside table and I counted them this morning – there are 61 (and that’s not all the shows I’ve seen this year.)

Ever wondered what 61 theatre tickets looks like? Well now you don’t have to.

I’ll admit that’s a lot. However, I rarely spend more than £20 on theatre tickets (the only exceptions this year being Liza Minnelli, Patti LuPone, Merrily We Roll Along and The Color Purple – all of which I think are justifiable) so here are my tips for savvy ticket purchasing:

  • If you are 16-25 you unquestionably need to be registered with the National Theatre’s ‘Entry Pass‘ scheme. You’ll have to be very quick and ‘on it’ when the tickets become available but you’ll get to see some incredible productions at a bargain price.
  • Get used to being a morning person, take a book (see recommendations at the end of this blog!), and go and queue for day seats. Many theatres have this option you just need to check the websites beforehand. Again, if you’re 16-25 and you haven’t queued for £5 tickets for ‘Matilda’ yet then WHY NOT!? Suck it up, get up early and go. You won’t regret it.
  • Sign up to production companies newsletters via email – including productions that are coming up (I did this with Book of Mormon and just today I booked my Miss Saigon tickets) you can get cheaper preview tickets for shows that, as Mormon has proved, can get very expensive.
  • Shakespeare’s Globe. Sign up to the emails and then when the summer season goes on sale you can get £5 yard tickets for an entire season of shows for less money than a West End ticket price. You’ll have to be quick though – they’re very popular.
  • The Royal Opera House has a student standby scheme whereby you can get £10 tickets (sometimes in the stalls if you’re lucky) to a couple of productions each season. OR if you’re not a student just register and you will get emails with ticket prices as low as £3 to certain shows. It’s not an incredible view but it’s still the Royal Ballet/Opera company in the Opera House for cheaper than a Grande Starbucks. I know what I’d rather spend my money on.
  • Finally my best piece of advice: Be okay with going to the theatre alone! When you ‘need’ someone to go to the theatre with you you have to wait for friends to get back to you blah blah before booking a ticket and you often miss the cheap available seats in doing so. I had my first solo theatre visit in 2011 when I went to see Sondheim’s ‘Passion’ at the Donmar and I haven’t looked back since (and I haven’t missed a cheap ticket I’ve wanted to get hold of either)

That’s tips done. Then what to do with the tickets? I used to stick them on my wall, then on my wardrobe etc etc but as I move house every year because of house shares (which if you’re going to drama school you will do!) I soon realised it was easier to stick them all on a noticeboard and cart that round.

My fireplace.

I am definitely going to have to make a new one of these with the past years tickets. Two noticeboards of tickets? Too much?

Other items you can see in this photo are an applause board from LSMT’s production of ‘Applause’, an LP of ‘West Side Story’ given to me as a present when I got into NYMT’s production and on the wall is a poem about the life and career of Stephen Sondheim. Yep, that’s right, a poem. It concludes: “I hope you have a better understanding on of this talented old guy. If not, ask Rebecca Ridout, she knows everything about him. Thank you and Goodbye” I love it! How on earth could I part with it?

Obviously with all these visit’s to the theatre I can’t just have ticket stubs to show for it. I’ve never been a merchandise girl – I don’t own any show t-shirts or the famous Wicked Umbrella. In a previous ‘stop hoarding Rebecca, you’ve got no wall space’ efforts I got rid of my massive poster collection. It now only includes what I refer to as my ‘Donmar Wall’ (see below), a Royal Opera House ‘One Extraordinary World’ design (it’s beautiful), an Applause and West Side Story advertisement and in true nerdy fashion a Shakespeare timeline. Unfortunately I have no advice to offer regarding posters. I constantly struggle with mine falling down – as lovely as Eddie Redmayne falling on my bed in the middle of the night may be.

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An Eddie Redmayne sandwich. Yes please.

Then come the programmes…

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The depth of this pile was insane.

This picture does not reflect just how many programmes are in that pile. There are so many! So many that I cannot be bothered to count them. This is my one hoard I completely justify and I urge you to do the same. I have referred to these programmes on numerous occasions looking up performers (sometimes guest teachers you swear you’ve seen in something etc) finding out who the casting director was, the producers… I think it’s important to always read ALL of the creatives and try and remember them – especially if it’s a long running show that you think you will be suitable for in the future! Never mind the pretty ‘picture brochures’ some of the shows offer, always get the programmes with all the juicy details in. Bossy Ridout.

Finally, not so much a hoard but rather a very necessary collection of books is the last item on my list to talk about (you’re thinking ‘phew’.) I thought I’d share with you some of my recommendations if you’re going to drama school, you’re a graduate or just looking for some interesting reading:

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NB: The order of this pile does not correlate with the list below. Apologies.

  1. Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen – It’s just a bible of acting method. Highly recommended.
  2. So You Want To Go To…DRAMA SCHOOL? by Helen Freeman – what it says on the tin.
  3. So You Want To Be In…MUSICALS? by Ruthie Henshall – this one is just full of things you can refer back to over you career. Also, who doesn’t love a bit of Ruthie? (not featured in the picture because my copy is currently lent to a friend)
  4. True and False by David Mamet – controversially is a book questioning the purpose of training and acting methods. It is consequently an absolutely fascinating read and also helps you, when training, to embrace that not every approach will suit you.
  5. Auditions by Richard Evans – all the ins and outs of what to expect.

I think that’s about it – or at least these are the theatrical items in my room that I feel have some kind of explanation/something I can offer you about them. I also have costumes, shoes, props, a broken stage combat rehearsal spoon, the aforementioned CDs, countless DVDs (oh and an American DVD player just so I can watch all my Sondheim DVDs on what I call ‘Sondheim Sundays’) and of course alphabetized HOARDS of sheet music.

I hope that this bonus blog has been informative, that you feel like you know me a bit better and that you want to return next week to read what I have to say about some beautiful books I’ve been reading.

“Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.”

– Rebecca Ridout